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Old 05-19-2020, 05:36 PM   #1
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Better Resale: Converted School or Shuttle?

Does anyone have any insight as whether a fully converted off-grid cutaway school bus or shuttle bus (each under 25 feet) would sell better - most things being equal (miles, engine, fuel type, etc.)?

And by "better" I mean, are there more people buying one or the other, and/or does a full conversion (insulation, solar, plumbing, etc.) of one usually fetch a higher price than the other?

I know that there are a lot of specifics that affect resale, but I'm curious if anyone has opinions on why one in general might be better.

Or if you think that shuttle/school may not matter for resale, is there is better market for certain things in a converted bus? and for what reasons? (i.e: more people are comfortable with gas engines, or: diesel engines usually fetch a higher price because they have more miles left in them, or: increasing emissions regulations and the greater production of gas busses in recent years means ____ is going to be more marketable now and in the future, ... etc). What are your thoughts?

Maybe the best question is:
If you were buying a bus specifically to convert it and resell as a mobile home shortly thereafter, what would you look for in the bus and what would you do to it?

Lastly, does anyone have any links to websites and pages where people are selling their converted busses (and where I might be able to see past sales)?

(Been lurking for awhile now and have learned a lot from the threads and posts here. Thanks for all of the insight, advice, and time you all give. I appreciate you all and am excited to join the community!)
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Old 05-19-2020, 06:18 PM   #2
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If the overall question is school bus versus shuttle bus, in the context of this forum you're going to get an overwhelming majority in favor of the school bus. The safety standards required for student transportation are much more stringent than for general public transportation therefore the construction of a literal school bus is far in excess of any other type of vehicle, including even buses made by the same manufacturers but never built to school bus specs. Shuttle buses are probably more comfortable riding and offer more comfort and convenience features but if you ask a group of skoolie owners which they prefer you kinda have to predict it'll be school buses!
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Old 05-19-2020, 06:22 PM   #3
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I dunno man, I'm guessing that most people who sell their converted buses don't get much over what they put into it...probably not enough to make it worthwhile on a $/hr basis anyway. We spent around 18 months converting our bus and right around 30K all said and done. I don't imagine we'd be able to get much more than we spent on materials if we were to sell it.
Maybe I'm answering a different question than you asked though.
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Old 05-19-2020, 06:55 PM   #4
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Agreed that resale in general is never profitable in this niche market and probably not usually even break-even. If the intention is to choose the most likely platform to build and resale, the premise is flawed from the start. Skoolies are very personalized and skoolie owners are very DIY oriented. Many people have had the idea of building live-in ready skoolies but there's simply almost zero market for it. Even those who plan to custom build to order find almost no one is interested in such a service and also many don't have the cash up front or else they'd be in the market for an RV. Part of the DIY attraction is being able to pace the project as time and resources permit and that's simply not going to easily adapt to a pay-for-customized business model.
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Old 05-19-2020, 11:32 PM   #5
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Anyone who gets into any type of RV, motorhome, school bus / box truck conversion thinking about resale value is unrealistic and fooling themselves. Many people lose money when reselling, even with factory built RVs for which a market price or book value can be established.

The handful of businesses doing skoolie / box truck conversions are generally entry-level in the $25-35k range. Most do-it-yourselfers spend about 20-30k, sometimes more, and get maybe 1/2 - 3/4 of what they spent selling. Not to mention their time spent doing the work.
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Old 05-20-2020, 07:57 PM   #6
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Thanks for the thoughts.
I was hoping I would be able to break even with a resale if I spent around 10k on the bus and build together. Do you think that is doable? I guess I was just wondering whether a shuttle or school bus would make that more realistic.

Could anyone point me to websites (other than this, craigslist, and ebay) where people are selling their converted busses? Or has anyone had success selling their converted shortie and can talk about their experience with it?
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Old 05-20-2020, 08:04 PM   #7
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Doubtful. A good bus will run 2-4k and you'll spend a minimum of 8-12k building it out, for a finished product you're not likely to be happy with, so you couldn't expect anyone else to clamor to buy it. And consider your time and the other costs of tools, equipment, electricity, etc.
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Old 05-20-2020, 08:24 PM   #8
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The people who are willing to pay big money for an already-converted skoolie are going to be people that don't know anything at all about buses and conversions, so the school bus vs. shuttle bus question is irrelevant. They'll buy whatever looks the prettiest. I would personally convert a school bus since it has a better chance of not breaking down catastrophically before you have a chance to flip it.

I've fantasized about building skoolies for profit, but there's just no way to do it without screwing people (like, customers and employees). To hire a professional skilled in any of the stuff required for a skoolie would cost $50 to $100 an hour or more (at least $25), so even with one person working on a bus that's a running tab of $2000 to $4000 a week ($1000 if you're lucky). You want to pay $12 or $10 an hour? You're either not going to get quality work or you're going to be worried about ICE raids all the time.

The labor requirements for a skoolie are just so enormous, that's what kills the idea. Even if you completely cheap out on the materials that go into the bus (and kill your chances of selling it) you still have that problem.
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Old 05-20-2020, 08:26 PM   #9
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The people who are willing to pay big money for an already-converted skoolie are going to be people that don't know anything at all about buses and conversions, so the school bus vs. shuttle bus question is irrelevant. They'll buy whatever looks the prettiest. I would personally convert a school bus since it has a better chance of not breaking down catastrophically before you have a chance to flip it.

I've fantasized about building skoolies for profit, but there's just no way to do it without screwing people (like, customers and employees). To hire a professional skilled in any of the stuff required for a skoolie would cost $50 to $100 an hour or more (at least $25), so even with one person working on a bus that's a running tab of $2000 to $4000 a week ($1000 if you're lucky). You want to pay $12 or $10 an hour? You're either not going to get quality work or you're going to be worried about ICE raids all the time.

The labor requirements for a skoolie are just so enormous, that's what kills the idea. Even if you completely cheap out on the materials that go into the bus (and kill your chances of selling it) you still have that problem.
you're VERY correct on all points, man.
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Old 05-21-2020, 12:49 AM   #10
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The central problem with converted vehicles of ANY kind is that there is no "in general" applicable to them. Each one is filled with compromises the builder wanted, and the likelihood another person would want all those identical choices and to spend or buy the same time and components making them is very, very slim.



People build things to suit themselves, and when they want to move on they're lucky to recover the depreciated cost of the materials in the project. The labor is not recoverable. Period. That's why most people build in the first place- because they can't buy the labor to build what they want. Those who do buy the labor will NEVER have a vehicle worth what it cost when they sell. The "market" is just too small for a product offering of one super-specific thing, especially if it is hard to make.



The same rule applies to hot rods, rock crawlers, house boats, choppers, you name it. If you want your money back out, customizing a vehicle for yourself is going to disappoint you.
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Old 05-21-2020, 01:43 AM   #11
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Here's a better way to understand why labor isn't recoverable "in general" aside from the whole specificity issues of the custom build market:


Suppose you have a vehicle, let's say a stock, serviceable school bus. Its worth what its worth, more from a dealer, less at auction. Then you blow the engine in the bus. You have it replaced with a good used engine. What''s the bus worth now? Exactly what it was before you blew the original engine. Nobody will pay any more for it because it has a working motor. The cost of the replacement engine is not recoverable. The labor to replace it is also not recoverable. The bus's market value doesn't change.



Now suppose you replace the blown motor with a brand new one. You have now added, at best, the (rapidly depreciating) value of a new engine to the bus. In a few years and miles, that will diminish to very, very little. It will protect the value as a serviceable bus for longer, but it doesn't add anything to that. Again, the labor to change to the new motor will not be recoverable. The market just doesn't recognize it.



Unlike real estate, gold, art, or any other true investment, 99%+ of vehicles are depreciating assets. The only exceptions are vehicles with significant non-vehicular market interest. Historic and artistic value count here. Rarity does not. Custom vehicles are always one-of-a-kind. If the builder wasn't Pininfarina or the owner wasn't Elvis, or it didn't win the Indy 500, rarity really doesn't matter to the market. Yes, nice old cars are worth more than they used to be, but hardly more than it costs to maintain and keep them up, and almost always less than it costs to restore them. The only ones worth more than that have historic or artistic value not related to their use as vehicles. The proof is whether and how they get used at all...



It always makes me chuckle when sellers talk about what they have "invested" in a vehicle. Its a misuse of the word...
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Old 05-21-2020, 08:35 AM   #12
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I can tell you right now I am trying to sell my semi converted shuttle bus and although 200 people message me about the details they rarely show up to look at it and they want to buy it at half the price. I don't get it. Times have changed, I guess. You won't make any profit trying to flip a bus , shuttle or skoolie. IMHO
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Old 05-21-2020, 09:44 AM   #13
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I sold a partially converted short skoolie for exactly what I had into it dollar wise. I did not charge for labor. I consider myself lucky. That said, there is a company in my town that is building custom skoolies to order and keeping several people employed full-time. I think the difference is, the clients are part of the design process.
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Old 05-21-2020, 12:26 PM   #14
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Here's a better way to understand why labor isn't recoverable "in general" aside from the whole specificity issues of the custom build market:


Suppose you have a vehicle, let's say a stock, serviceable school bus. Its worth what its worth, more from a dealer, less at auction. Then you blow the engine in the bus. You have it replaced with a good used engine. What''s the bus worth now? Exactly what it was before you blew the original engine. Nobody will pay any more for it because it has a working motor. The cost of the replacement engine is not recoverable. The labor to replace it is also not recoverable. The bus's market value doesn't change

Now suppose you replace the blown motor with a brand new one. You have now added, at best, the (rapidly depreciating) value of a new engine to the bus. In a few years and miles, that will diminish to very, very little. It will protect the value as a serviceable bus for longer, but it doesn't add anything to that. Again, the labor to change to the new motor will not be recoverable. The market just doesn't recognize it.



Unlike real estate, gold, art, or any other true investment, 99%+ of vehicles are depreciating assets. The only exceptions are vehicles with significant non-vehicular market interest. Historic and artistic value count here. Rarity does not. Custom vehicles are always one-of-a-kind. If the builder wasn't Pininfarina or the owner wasn't Elvis, or it didn't win the Indy 500, rarity really doesn't matter to the market. Yes, nice old cars are worth more than they used to be, but hardly more than it costs to maintain and keep them up, and almost always less than it costs to restore them. The only ones worth more than that have historic or artistic value not related to their use as vehicles. The proof is whether and how they get used at all...



It always makes me chuckle when sellers talk about what they have "invested" in a vehicle. Its a misuse of the word...
Absolutely bang on there Tom
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Old 05-24-2020, 11:01 PM   #15
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Thanks for the feedback.
Just to be clear I am not trying to convert a bus to turn a profit or have the thing appreciate in value or carry the value of my labor. I was just wondering whether a converted skoolie or shuttle bus would be easier to resell and whether one or the other would give me a better shot at recover some of the cost of the materials in it (bus included). Surely a converted school bus will sell for more than the cost of the bus alone right?? Am I crazy to think that I would be able to resell a $4k short bus with $6k of improvements for $8-10k?
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Old 05-25-2020, 07:26 AM   #16
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I think it would depend on what improvements you did, how well you did them, and if they moved the conversion project forward or if the potential buyer will end up redoing whatever you did anyways to adapt to their plans. These are all difficult predictions to make because of the highly individualized nature of skoolie conversions.
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Old 05-25-2020, 11:07 AM   #17
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I second Sehnsucht. Realistically, most folks who put a little bit of thought and efficiency into their conversions usually wind up getting most, if not all of what they spent back. But it has to look decent and work well.

Actually removing the inner metal walls and using spray foam insulation is a good start, as well as proper floor preparation and rust removal. Lots of newbies skip this step believing it isn't necessary, only to find out they've invited more problems in the end. Leaks are not common, but not unheard of either. Sound the ship, as Thomas Andrews said when the Titanic met her fate.
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Old 05-26-2020, 02:39 PM   #18
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Realistically, most folks who put a little bit of thought and efficiency into their conversions usually wind up getting most, if not all of what they spent back. But it has to look decent and work well.
This is what I was assuming. Thanks!




Thanks for the responses all.
If anyone has any anecdotes about trying to sell their short bus and what they learned I'd love to hear about it!
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Old 05-27-2020, 04:38 PM   #19
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Does anyone have any insight as whether a fully converted off-grid cutaway school bus or shuttle bus (each under 25 feet) would sell better - most things being equal (miles, engine, fuel type, etc.)?

And by "better" I mean, are there more people buying one or the other, and/or does a full conversion (insulation, solar, plumbing, etc.) of one usually fetch a higher price than the other?

I know that there are a lot of specifics that affect resale, but I'm curious if anyone has opinions on why one in general might be better.

Or if you think that shuttle/school may not matter for resale, is there is better market for certain things in a converted bus? and for what reasons? (i.e: more people are comfortable with gas engines, or: diesel engines usually fetch a higher price because they have more miles left in them, or: increasing emissions regulations and the greater production of gas busses in recent years means ____ is going to be more marketable now and in the future, ... etc). What are your thoughts?

Maybe the best question is:
If you were buying a bus specifically to convert it and resell as a mobile home shortly thereafter, what would you look for in the bus and what would you do to it?

Lastly, does anyone have any links to websites and pages where people are selling their converted busses (and where I might be able to see past sales)?

(Been lurking for awhile now and have learned a lot from the threads and posts here. Thanks for all of the insight, advice, and time you all give. I appreciate you all and am excited to join the community!)
A schoolie is a personal journey for most who do this. For others like Ruth and I it's about having a durable rv home for a price we can afford. You will find some who make a business off of the schoolie movement. Most of them are buying up busses at auction and reselling as is or in various stages of cleaned up. What you are unlikely to find is a predictable profit modifying busses.
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Old 05-27-2020, 05:30 PM   #20
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I have a shuttle, not a skoolie. So I don't have to remove a handicap door. But I also don't have a back door and my floor is not solid metal. So it would be extra work if you want to put in a solid metal floor. But it is easier because you have access to under the bus if you want to put water tanks there, then put in the metal floor. Metal flooring would be an added expense that you might not have on a skoolie. Hope this helps a little.
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